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Beginners Help - Get Started in Making Traditional Japanese Temari with Temarikai.com

           This intro reviews both the steps to learning temari as well as learning about Temarikai.com, both of which will help you along.
First, a bit about TemariKai.com: When I began my temari journey in 1998, I posted a few personal web pages to see if there were any other folks out there with the same interest. Turned out there were, and within several months what was to become TemariKai.com was growing in leaps and bounds, as well as what would become TalkTemari. Temarikai and TalkTemari (the companion Yahoo Group discussion list) emerged into their current versions thanks to the interaction, contributed information, sharing and support of what are now thousands of web readers and TalkTemari members. The site is not a cut-and-dried, pre-planned, online how-to book; it's a dynamic compendium of personal authoring, learning, research, as well as compiled information from TalkTemari posts, contributed information, and patterns. Many pages first appeared as lists of hints and helps, which are now compiled and edited essay pages. With the increasing popularity of Temari as a needle art, many people are coming to Temarikai.com as their primary reference. I hope that you will find it helpful, but I strongly recommend that newcomers/beginners still invest in a book or two, and allow TemariKai.com and Talk Temari to be your adjunct help and support.

        Learning temari is the same as learning else: you need to learn basic techniques, and practice them. The first attempts are probably pretty pathetic, but everything gets better as we keep at it.  There are things that need and should be learned in order, so that you get the best results with least frustration. You need to become reasonably adept and understand one technique before trying the next, more complicated ones (loosely translated - we all have to learn to walk before we try to run). This, more than anything, will help you enjoy and have fun while you learn.

        It is important to learn the background and basics of traditional Japanese teachings, since the historical stitch and technique names help you understand what is happening. It's important too to know that most times there are not direct English/Western equivalents of Temari stitches and techniques, and it can be confusing to try to force them. It's also important to understand from where or whom you are learning: TemariKai.com/TalkTemari strive as much as possible to present and protect the traditional Japanese methods; other sources may be presenting that person's interpretation of them. There is a difference. TemariKai and TalkTemari work on it being important to honor and respect the authentic and traditional methods, the same as any other ethnic process is. Interpreted sources should be indicated as being such, so as to avoid confusion and misrepresentation. One need not learn Japanese; the Romanji translations are no more difficult to learn than any other new English word (the Japanese Glossary and the Temarikai ToolKit will help). We have been very fortunate since 2005 to have Japanese mentors and translators befriend, teach and translate the classical lessons. This honors and preserves the heritage of this ethnic art form, & gives a common base for temari crafters to understand the same things.

       There is a difference between stitches/techniques and patterns/designs. They are not the same. You learn a stitch, and then use that stitch to create a design (it is very confusing if this concept is missed, especially if you are trying to communicate with other crafters). You practice a stitch or technique by using it to work different designs and patterns. There is a difference between developing your stitch repertoire and your design repertoire. We are not inventing a new craft  - Temari has been practiced for hundreds of years, using a given set of temari stitches and techniques. Each of them have common-sense Japanese/Romanji names and definitions that describe what is happening when you make the stitch (and understanding translated meanings of these names helps make temari much more creative!). Your stitch skills will be finite - your pattern possibilities endless. It was mentioned above that many stitches used in Temari do not have direct Western/English correlations - which is not only true, but wonderful! It is what makes Temari be Temari! Don't force yourself or the art to fit into a language and culture that it is not native to, and never will be. That is the beauty, honor and privilege of being able to learn, enjoy and share an historical and cultural art form. It's no harder - and in fact easier -  to learn the classical teachings and terms as it is to learn a variation of them. This is especially important to remember if you are taking classes (in person or online, or even learning from some books). Some people "teach by project" without clearly guiding students to understand the difference between technique and design. Learn a stitch as that stitch, and you can use it in endless designs and patterns. Learn it as "thus and such a project" and your creativity (even subconsciously) often becomes limited in how that stitch is applied. 

       No matter how technically accomplished a stitcher you may become, it won't matter if you don't take the time to be careful and precise. There is no substitute for developing neat and crisp work. The most beautiful temari design can have everything distracted from it because of workmanship that shows haste, and/or lack of attention to detail (even by very experienced, artistically talented stitchers). Indeed, these attributes are at the core of Japanese arts and life overall. To not take the time to work neatly, and to not continue to develop one's skill no matter how much experience you acquire, is dishonorable (no matter what one may be doing). Taking the time to learn the basics, and gain proficiency & understanding before diving into something new and more difficult, is just as important as taking on that new skill - and just as important as the actual stitching of temari. They cannot be separated.

        There are several ways you can go about learning Temari. There may be a class offered in a needlework shop, library or community group, but most people find themselves on their own. Thankfully Temari lends itself to independent study, and hopefully TemariKai and TalkTemari will help fill in the cracks. We are also fortunate now to have access to Japanese books as well as a growing list of English references compared to when this all started more than 15 years ago.  That being said, the vast majority of Western stitchers are self-taught and the internet has helped tremendously. I recommend that you invest in one or more English language temari books - my favorites continue to be either the Craft of Temari by Mary Wood, and/or the first, second or fifth books by Diana Vandervoort (Temari: How to Make Japanese Thread Balls, and Temari Gifts).

        Getting Started Basics: The How To Section of Temarikai has many pages of information. In addition to a book, you will need some basic supplies. For mari making: worsted and fine yarn, sewing thread (about 300 yards for a 2 3/4 inch ball); color head pins, scissors, tape measure, thin paper strips (about 1/8 to 3/8 inch wide and long enough to go around the ball). For stitching: thin metallic thread, #5 pearl cotton or equivalent, but not stranded floss or crochet cotton, and needles (cotton darners work well with pearl cotton).  These supplies will get you started; as your experience grows you'll add more marking and stitching threads, etc.  Most of these supplies can be had in one stop at a good craft/fabric store, or in an order from a good craft/needlework catalog, if you don't already have many of them popping around the house now. And - perhaps the most important thing, is a notebook to keep you growing stock of information and patterns as well as keeping records of the temari that you stitch.

The basic steps to make a temari are:

    Make the mari
    Wrap the mari
    Divide the mari
    Mark the mari
    Stitch the design - Beginner Kiku design using Uwagake Chidori Kagari.

        There is no absolute  beginner pattern for learning to make temari. It will change depending on what book you read or whose class you take. After more than 15 years of making and sharing temari, I suggest that newcomers begin with a basic Kiku design. It uses one of the most common stitches in Temari - Uwagake Chidori Kagari. Make a mari, wrap it, divide and mark it into a Simple 8 division with an equator, and then create a Kiku (chrysanthemum) temari. This is the way I start new students out, but there is no set rule.

        The Pattern Index indicates both the standard division used for that design as well as the level of difficulty. You can choose any design that strikes your fancy, paying attention to the division and difficulty involved.

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Last updated 12/2013 © 1998 - 2014 G. Thompson/PuffinStuff, Inc.